Friday, February 23, 2007

Definitely and Distinctly Canadian ... The Edison Connection!

Just to clarify a previous entry - The incandescent light bulb was first patented by some Canadians, and the patent was later purchased by Thomas A Edison who is widely (and erroneously) attributed as the inventor of the Light Bulb ... It is akin to the debate whether the Telephone was invented in Boston or Brantford Ontario ... Any child who has passed through the Canadian School system KNOWS that the telephone was invented in Brantford, not Boston ... Alexander Graham Bell was one of ours ...

Now back to our regular feature ... I would like to share an extract from a book entitled "Floodtides of Fortune" by Adelaide Leitch. Floodtides is the story of Stratford Ontario ... in it she writes the following:

... a 16 year old boy cam to town in 1863 to take his first job away from his home in Port Huron Michigan. The job was that of night telegrapher ... he was a round-faced, blue-eyed lad who dreamed great dreams. His stay in Stratford was brief and his departure abrupt.
From the beginning he was an experimenter ... The 7pm to 7 am shift suited him beautifully, giving him long, day light hours for his experimenting and allied projects. Because of his nighthawk shifts he was able, one day, to take the day train to Goderich to get the platinum electrodes from over 80 cells of old, broken up batteries. This platinum would still be used in his labratory 40 years later.

To show that he was on duty, the young night operator was required to send the signal "6" every hour to the train dispatcher. To take care of that, he rigged a wheel with notches cut in the circumference and attached it to a clock in such a way that the night watchman could start it Each hour, the turning wheel dutifully sent the morse code for the "sixing" while he blissfully cat napped. However it finally occurred to the central control office that there was something very strange indeed going on since "Sf" could not be roused even when the central dispatcher called back immediately after the sixing signal had come through. They soon investigated. There was a reprimand ...

One night, a message came through from the dispatcher to hold a freight train until the arrival of another. He acknowledged reciept of the message, then ran from his office to tell the signalman. It was probably not his fault, but he was too late. The train was already pulling past him. Horrified he dashed back to report he couldn't stop it !

Luckily, the line between Stratford and St Mary's was a straight one. The engineers of the opposing trains saw one another in time to stop.

The young man took off for home in Port Huron on the first freight train out of Stratford. The Grand Trunk still owed him wages, but henever came back for them. He collected only his clothes - and his precious hoard of platinum ...

In the Stratford Ontario Train Station is a small bronze plaque that says: "IN Commemoration of Thomas Alvin Edison, employed in this city as a telegraph operator by the Grand Trunk Railway, 1863/4."

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